During this unbearably hot summer, I keep dreaming of my camp days, wonderful, exciting, and challenging days at a place called The Elms Camp for Girls on Keuka Lake. The camp no longer exists, I’m sad to say, but many of the buildings are still there, converted into summer homes that still whisper of songs sung after yummy meals capped with favorite desserts such as homemade puddings and pies. And of course there was the infamous “Bug Juice”: nothing quenched quite like this mysterious conglomeration of fruit-flavored liquids.
Last summer many of us gathered for a reunion and tour of our beloved camp. Magically we stepped through the boundaries of space and time to find ourselves in a dimension where we were delightfully drowned in an onslaught of memories brought to us by ghosts of summers past.
We yakked about the canoe trip down the length of the lake when we got caught in a vicious thunderstorm and had to be rescued by Mr. George, camp owner, in his classic wooden Cris-Craft. How embarrassed we were pulling into camp, all strung together in a long lineup of canoes, looking like human drips. We reminisced about the campfire circle led by Mr. Randall, our tough as nails swim team coach with a subtle gentleness that made us all feel loved. We sang, we played games, and we pondered the meaning of camp life. We laughed about our sailing exploits – coming towards the buoys with our beloved K-boats way too fast, unable to come about to tie up properly, and landing on shore to the chagrin of our counselors. We chatted about water skiing, being mortified as handsome Butch held us as we attempted to get on skis for the first time, or smashing into rough waves, having water shoot up various orifices in our bodies and needing to get to a bathroom — FAST!Finally — the pagoda! This was the enchanted place of the entire camp, the place where we went to watch sunsets and fireflies, the place we went to cry after an argument with a bunk-mate, or a reprimand from one of the counselors on whom we had a terrific crush. It sat stalwart on the very tip of the point that extended out into the lake, a landmark for sailors and boaters all along the lake shore. I was afraid it wouldn’t be there anymore. I was afraid it fell victim to storms, floods, or human hands of destruction. But it was there. I ran to it, alone, to ponder the past and celebrate the present.
So many wonderful memories I could write a book. Perhaps I shall. In the meantime, please enjoy these photos of a day gone past but kept current and alive in the minds and hearts of over 100 former campers of The Elms Camp For Girls.